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Linguistics and imperialism

asked 2015-06-20 16:12:53 -0500

Richard Durkan gravatar image

In a recent book The Labyrinths of Language, Prof Franson Manjali argues that the emergence of modern linguistics can only be understood in terms of colonialism and colonial politics. He focuses on William Jones but also invokes Humboldt, Herder and Max Mueller as well. In another recent book, Sapiens: A Brief History Humankind, Dr Yuval Noah Harari states that because Europeans believed that to govern effectively they must know the languages and cultures of their subjects, they studied linguistics which provided invaluable help in understanding the structure and grammar of local languages. He specifically links linguistics to imperialism.

Are these two authors overstating their case?

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answered 2015-07-08 11:37:24 -0500

A S Sundar gravatar image

While I am not an expert in the field,my observations with regard to classification of language families support the view of the authors. In India there is a view ,that the British introduced the theory of Aryan invasion of India to justify their rule and presence in India,those days. As a extension of this propaganda , the English discovered that Sanskrit is a forgotten relative of the English language! They maintained that though the syntax,grammar, script and major part of core vocabulary may differ, English and Sanskrit are related because a few words in both languages are similar. To intensify the propaganda, Chairs for Sanskrit were instituted in leading Western seats of learning. In my view, imperialism did cover up lot of' uncomfortable' facts of linguistics .

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In the hey days of colonialism, the colonialists did all in their power to suppress the languages of the colonized regarding them as inferior to their own language. Modern linguistics testifies against such inhumane treatment of any people and their culture. The issue is about science vs philosophy

Goodvoice gravatar imageGoodvoice ( 2015-10-17 09:15:04 -0500 )edit

Yes.That is quite applicable to India.

A S Sundar gravatar imageA S Sundar ( 2015-11-09 09:55:59 -0500 )edit
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Asked: 2015-06-20 16:12:53 -0500

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Last updated: Jul 08 '15